Serbian prime minister visits New Orleans looking to strengthen economic ties
Prime Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic, on a visit to New Orleans.JPG
Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic is visiting New Orleans in September 2013, meeting with business and political leaders and visiting the Port of New Orleans and National World War II Museum as he encourages greater economic and cultural ties between Serbia and New Orleans. (Mark Waller, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Mark Waller, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
By Mark Waller, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
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on September 16, 2013 at 3:26 PM
The prime minister of Serbia, Ivica Dacic
, is in New Orleans, drawn by the city's energy industry, port, mining operations and technology businesses and seeking to encourage investment in Serbia. He's meeting local politicians and business leaders and visiting the Port of New Orleans
and National World War II Museum
"New Orleans has certain similarities, especially with our capital city," said Dacic, speaking through a translator, about Belgrade, which is a tourism and entertainment hub. The country has a variety of brass band that plays folk music led by trumpet players. Belgrade also is a river city at the confluence of the Danube and Sava but needs to revive its port, making the active port in New Orleans an attraction for the prime minister.
"Our river port is not sufficiently developed," he said. "They have fallen into disuse."
His itinerary Monday and Tuesday includes meeting executives of the Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold
mining company, formerly based in New Orleans but now maintaining its headquarters in Phoenix with a continued presence in New Orleans. He said the company is conducting mining exploration in Serbia.
Dacic also planned to meet with executives of the California-based Chevron oil company, which has a regional office in Covington. And his agenda included meetings with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Chief Ronal Serpas.
Greg Rusovich discusses visit by Serbian prime minister
Greg Rusovich, the New Orleans honorary consul general for Serbia, discusses a September 2013 visit to the city by Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic to promote cultural and economic ties.
"We did come to New Orleans to present Serbia, to talk about possibilities of investing in Serbia," Dacic said, touting his country's trade agreements and what he described as business-friendly tax policies and incentives. "We think we can increase the level of foreign exchange with the U.S.A.," Dacic said, saying trade between the two countries amounts to about $350 million annually. Serbia exports Fiat cars to the United States and ammunition.
New Orleans is one of few cities in the United States with a Serbian honorary consul general. The post belongs to businessman Greg Rusovich, who is chief executive officer of Transoceanic Trading and Development Co., LLC
, chairman of the Greater New Orleans Inc.
economic development group and spokesman for the Forward New Orleans
civic activist group. GNO Inc. is hosting the prime minister's visit.
Rusovich took the honorary consul position in 2008, eight years after the first democratically elected government emerged in Serbia following the violent period in the region in the 1990s.
Rusovich has Serbian heritage. His grandfather served as New Orleans consul general for the royal government in exile from Serbia in the 1950s. His father maintained Serbian cultural ties.
Serbia and the United States have a poignant connection from World War II, both Dacic and Rusovich said, when Serbians helped rescue American airmen downed in German-occupied territories during what was called the Halyard Mission in 1944. That episode led Dacic to place the World War II Museum on his itinerary.
Rusovich said it is a sign of the economic significance of New Orleans that the prime minister chose to make this trip. And he said the connection with Serbia could have indirect benefits for New Orleans.
"If a Louisiana company has a good investment overseas, that helps the Louisiana company," Rusovich said.